Florida: Decision to Drop Mandatory Health Class May Harm Students, Teachers Say
September 12, 2006
Effective next school year, Florida is no longer requiring a half-year health class for high school students. The half-credit course, also known as life management skills, includes information about nutrition, weight management, consumer finance, STDs, and the risks of alcohol, drug, and tobacco use. Cutting the health unit as a requirement was necessary to make room for Gov. Jeb Bush's "A-Plus-Plus Plan" in which ninth-graders choose major and minor areas of interests with a view to their future careers.
Life management will still be available as an elective, said Mary Jane Tappen, deputy chancellor for the state Department of Education. A student may even choose health and physical education as fields of interest. "I envision we could have more participation in PE and health, not less actually," she said.
Without being a graduation requirement, it is uncertain whether or how many students would opt to take a health course, said Mary Adas, a Cyprus Bay High School health teacher.
"It's hard to believe they would even consider doing away with health," said Jeff Scudder, a South Broward High health teacher. "This is the only course where the kids learn CPR and get real-world HIV/STD education." He expects school administrators will focus more on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test subjects: reading, science, and math. "Why would schools spend money to hire teachers in a subject that's not required?"
Next year's incoming freshmen must still complete a one-credit physical education course. But some Broward County teachers question whether the health education requirement should be eliminated, given the area's rising youth obesity rates and high HIV/AIDS prevalence. The county's Council of Parent Teacher Associations plans to lobby state lawmakers to have the requirement restored, said Latha Krishnaiyer, the council's legislative affairs representative.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale)
09.10.2006; Douane D. James